Travel Report: Dawn Chan, Faculty of Education

November 10, 2015

Dawn Chan, a Master's student in Education, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award (GIRTA) to further her research in Hong Kong. Her report:

Thanks to the SFU Graduate International Research Travel Award (GIRTA), I was able to travel to Hong Kong to collect data for my Master's research. My study examines associations among teacher-student relationships, student motivation, and student academic achievement across two different cultures: Vancouver, Canada and Hong Kong, China. Research questions addressed in this study include:

  1. Do student perceptions of their relationships with teachers differ across cultures?
  2. Do student levels of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation differ across cultures?
  3. Are teachers-student relationships related to student levels of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation within cultures?
  4. Are teacher-student relationships related to student achievement within cultures?
  5. Are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation related to achievement within cultures?
  6. Does culture moderate the association between a) teacher-student relationships and achievement and b) motivation and achievement?
  7. Does culture moderate the relationship between teacher-student relationships and student motivation?

This study is of theoretical significance as it addresses whether practices found to support student learning in Western contexts are also applicable in Eastern contexts.  Moreover, given the large number of East Asian immigrant students in the student population of Metro Vancouver, the findings of the proposed study also have the potential to enhance teachers’ understandings of Chinese students and their families that, in turn, will support those students’ adjustment to school in Canada. 

The purpose of my trip to Hong Kong was to recruit Grade 5 and 6 elementary school students and their teachers to participate in my study, and to administer student and teacher questionnaires to them though an online platform. One of the biggest challenges I encountered was recruiting public schools to take part in my study. Without ties to a post-secondary institution in Hong Kong, this task was difficult and challenging. During my stay in Hong Kong, I actively contacted elementary schools across five different districts to introduce myself and request meetings with principals to personally present my research and to explain the importance and implication of this research.

Out of the elementary schools that gave me the opportunity to meet with the principals, I was able to recruit seven schools. At each participating school, I had meetings with the school director and Grade 5/6 teachers to explain the nature of the study and discuss the student recruiting and data collection process that would require their cooperation. I also met with schools’ IT supporting staff to discuss the online web-surveys that would be used to administer the student questionnaires on the day of data collection. The IT staff was very supportive and went over the computer set ups with me to make sure there would be no unexpected issues on the day of data collection. In the end, a total of 339 Grade 5 and 6 students and 25 teachers from seven schools in Hong Kong participated in my study.

Over the data collection period, I learned the importance of taking initiative, being persistent, and having patience in conducting research. Communication and flexibility are extremely important. This is especially true when conducting a cross-cultural research. The schools I worked with have broadened my knowledge and enabled me to understand that schools in different cultures may have a different set of administrative structures and organize events differently from what I am used to in Canada. This can lead to differences between the researcher’s original plan and expectations and the process of actual data collection.

I also gained valuable interpersonal skills working with different administrators, teachers, and staff. This opportunity provided me with irreplaceable experiences that will be valuable for me working or conducting research in any education environment in the future. The Canadian section of my research has recently been completed. Once my thesis is finished, I will share the results with all participating schools, teachers, and families. I hope they will find the results interesting and informative.

I am grateful in receiving SFU’s Graduate International Research Travel Award. I am indebted for the participating schools’ generosity as my study significantly added to the workloads of their teachers, students, and staff. I am truly thankful for the time and effort they took to arrange and plan for students to complete the research questionnaires. Last, but not least, I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to my supervisor, Dr. Lucy Le Mare, for her constant support and encouragement throughout my research.

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